By Heather Martens
Fire Prevention Technician, Seeley Lake Ranger District 

Summer fire season wrap-up, fall fire prevention reminders

 

October 1, 2020

Cy Hanson – Engine Captain Seeley Lake Ranger District

A broadcast burn in Colt Summit last year. 

Members of the Missoula County Fire Protection Agency (MCFPA) would like to thank you for your continued support as we move into our fall season. Fire suppression activities kept crews busy both locally and nationally throughout the summer.

Fire Danger remained at Very High levels throughout the summer to the end of August. Fire Danger was High throughout the month of September. Some of our local area received beneficial rainfall during the month, other areas received less moisture therefore continuing the concern for local wildfires as we moved through the month of September. The end of the month brought cooler temperatures and rain which was very welcomed across the area.

Human caused fires accounted for the majority of recorded fires this season. A few rounds of lightning storms caused several fires to start but most of those fires stayed small. Crews responded quickly and were able to keep the majority of those fires small. The largest fire locally was the Cinnabar Fire on the Missoula Ranger District which burned just under 3,000 acres in the Welcome Creek Wilderness area.


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Montana has experienced 1,896 fires this year which burned approximately 264,000 acres. Locally, the Lolo NF had a total of 92 fires. 67 of those fires were human caused and 25 were lightning caused. DNRC Clearwater and Missoula Units had a total of 67 fires. Of their 67 fires, 48 were human caused and 19 were lightning caused. Local Fire Departments in Missoula County responded to 25 fires all of which were human caused.

As human caused fires account for the majority of our local fire response, the importance of remaining diligent regarding fire prevention serves as a reminder. Abandoned campfires are a leading cause of wildfire. Cool fall weather is the perfect time to enjoy a warming fire, but we need to remember to always completely extinguish our fires before leaving. Having water and a shovel to help extinguish your fire is recommended. Remember, if your fire is too hot to touch, then it's too hot to leave! When cold to the touch your fire is safe to leave.

Outdoor burning in Missoula County is by permit only, and General Burning Season is closed until March 1, 2021. When fire danger drops, MCFPA opens fall burning, however, the only burning that is permitted during this time is prescribe wildland and essential agriculture. Visit https://www.MissoulaCounty.us or https://www.MCFPA.org for more information on outdoor burning seasons, permits and current restrictions.


Fall is a great time for property owners to assess wildfire risk around their property and home. Scheduling home assessments before winter comes or first thing in the spring can help reduce the risk of wildfire affecting your property and home. Please visit https://mcfpa.org/prevention.htm for more information regarding home assessments. You may also contact Joe Rediske, Fire Operations and Prevention with Montana DNRC-Clearwater unit at 406-396-0338 or via email at Joe.Rediske@mt.gov or Kristen Mortenson, Fire Prevention Specialist at the Southwest Land Office, DNRC in Missoula at 406-542-4321 or via email Kristin.Mortenson@mt.gov .

In addition to fire suppression efforts, crews from both the USFS and DNRC have been completing fuels mitigation work on state and federal lands. This type of implementation is beneficial for forest health and helps reduce wildfire risk in our forests and wildland urban interface areas.

Fuel mitigation work involves creating a "break" in the fuel (vegetation and woody material responsive to fire) by thinning, reducing or removing this fuel to create an area that reduces fire intensity and may aid in suppression efforts if a wildfire were to occur. Crews prepare these identified areas for future broadcast or pile burning in the future. You may hear the "buzz" of chainsaws or a chipping machine as crews perform this work.

Typically broadcast and pile burning is done in the spring or fall, when fire dangers are low, and conditions are favorable for those types of activities. Fuel mitigation work can also be completed as part of commercial timber harvest operations and often in conjunction with the mechanical work of these crews.


For more information on these types of land management activities in our local Seeley Lake area feel free to contact the Seeley Lake Ranger District at 677-2233 or the DNRC Clearwater Unit at 244-5857.

Nick Clark – Senior Firefighter, Seeley Lake Ranger District

A firefighter doing mechanical thinning prepping for future broadcast burning in Horseshoe Hills West thinning unit. 

 

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